Harden Makes It Look Easy at Fitch Park

Rich Harden threw four shutout innings and Welington Castillo's two run home run capped a five-run 5th, as the Iowa Cubs (Cubs AAA affiliate) edged the Sacramento River Cats (Oakland A's AAA affiliate) 5-4 before an unusually large Minor League Camp crowd of 50+ at cool & breezy Fitch Park Field #3 this afternoon

Cubs Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild and Assistant Pitching Coach Lester Strode were in attendance, and the place was absoluely crawling with beat writers, bloggers, and assorted Cubs fans intent on watching an actual Cubs major league pitcher throw on a day when the big club had the day off, and they were not disappointed.

However, very few stayed for the whole game. 

So for those of you who want to know how Harden looked, but also just HAVE to know how the Iowa Cubs did it,.. here is... the... rest...of... the... story...

Harden worked the first four innings, and looked pretty good. He threw 63 pitches (42 strikes - 21 balls), and kept his fastball at the belt or higher on every hitter (he struck out four and got seven fly outs, but no ground outs), mixing in a change-up that he had trouble commanding.

Here's Harden's day:    

1st inning: 1) K - swinging (that would be ex-Cub Eric Patterson), 2) ground single to LF, 3) F-9 in foul territiry, and 4) pop up to CF.

2nd inning: 1) line out to CF, 2) line single to CF, 3) F-7 to medium-deep LF, and 4) K - swinging.

3rd inning: 1) fly out to CF 2) bloop broken-bat single to short CF, 3-A ) Koyie Hill threw out baserunner trying to steal 2nd 2-4, 3-B) Strike out - called (Eric Patterson again).   

4th inning: 1) Strike out - swinging, 2) F-9, 3) F-9.

Harden said he felt great, and I can confirm that he did NOT grab his shoulder at any point while he was on the mound, he was NOT carried off the field on a stretcher, and in fact, after he finished his post-outing stretching, he shook hands with a number of the A's players and coaches on the River Cats bench (Harden is understandably well-known among the Oakland A's family)  and then he spent about 15 minutes siging autographs, before finally heading for the Fitch Park clubhouse.

Koyie Hill was the other big league Cubbie at Fitch Park today, and he was there specifically to catch Rich Harden's four innings, and get four ABs as quickly as possible. Therefore, K. Hill was permitted to hit once in each of the first four innings, where he walked in the 1st, got called out on strikes in both the 2nd & 3rd innings, and finally (hitting left-handed) sliced a bloop double down the LF line leading off the 4th (and then he got doubled off 2nd base on a fly out to RF, much to the joy and hilarity of Hill's former Iowa teammates).

The game was scoreless after four innings, but the River Cats took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 5th inning off I-Cubs RHRP Vince Perkins (Team Canada). Perkins gave up a lead-off double, and the runner advanced to third on a 4-3 GO and scored on a F-7 SF. 

But the I-Cubs came right back in the bottom of the inning in a furious volley--a virtual "triple-mania"--parlaying a single, three triples and a HR to score five and take a 5-1 lead. 

With one out, Luis Rivas tripled to the fence in right-centerfield, and then scored when River Cats 2B Eric Patterson launched his moonshot relay throw literally all the way to the middle of Field #2 (where the Cubs AA Tennesse Smokies affiliate was playing the A's AA club, and the I-Cubs got a big kick out of that one, too). Kyle Reynolds then tripled down the RF line, and scored on an RBI single to LF by DH Shawn McGill. Matt Camp thripled into the RF corner, and Camp scored on Welington Castillo's two-run jack over the LF fence onto 8th Street. (The I-Cubs had a total of four triples for the day, as Richie Robnett also tripled leading off the 2nd, although he was left stranded when K. Hill and Rivas struck out and Reynolds flied out).

Iowa LHP Jason Waddell (who got sent down to Minor League Camp just yesterday) pitched the 6th and 7th (24 pitches - 14 strikes, 2/3 GO/FO)), facing only six batters (thanks to an inning-ending 5-4-3 DP that followed a one-out walk in the top of the 7th). Waddell struck out one, and that was the first batter he faced, on three pitches ("Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night").

With the Cubs still leading 5-1, RHP Rocky Roquet pitched the 8th, and really struggled. It took him 28 pitches to get out of the inning, and before he got the third out (which was a spectacular run-saving diving stop & throw to first by second-baseman Luis Rivas), he allowed a two-out bases-loaded two-run single after Sacramento had loaded the bases on a single (+ E-9 bobble by Richie Robnett) and two walks. (Roquet did get a "K" on a called third strike facing the lead-off hitter in the inning, however).

LHP Matt Smith (ex-NYY) pitched the 9th, and really pushed his luck. The River Cats scored almost right away on a single and an RBI double off the LF fence (a near game-tying HR), and then Smith loaded the bases on a couple of walks. After Iowa Pitching Coach Mike Mason made a visit to the mound, Smith got it together and retired the side on two pitches (an infield pop up and ac 4-6-3 DP), preserving the 5-4 victory.   

Smith was an NRI to big league camp, but he only got into one Cactus League game before getting sent to Minor League Camp. He probably will have to pitch better in his next outing to avoid getting released.

Sam Fuld, Jake Fox, Bobby Scales, and Jose Ascanio will report to Fitch Park tomorrow.

Here is today's abridged box score (I-Cubs player only). Note that Valdez and Bautista were temporarily loaned to Iowa from the Boise-Mesa squad after the B-M kids finished their work on Field #4.   


1-A Matt Camp, SS 1-3 (3B, RBI, R)
1-B: Jose Valdez, PH-CF: 0-0 (BB, CS)
2-A. Koyie Hill, C: 1-1 (2B, BB)
2-B: Welington Castillo, C 2-2 (HR, 2 RBI)
3-A. Doug Deeds, CF: 1-2 (BB, K)
3-B. Robert Bautista, PH-SS: 0-1
4. Jason Dubois, LF: 0-4 (K)
5. Richie Robnett, RF: 1-3 (3B)
6-A. Koyie Hill, DH #1: 0-1 (K)
7. Luis Rivas, 2B: 1-3 (3B, R, K) 
8. Kyle Reynolds, 1B:1-3 (3B, R)
9. Shawn McGill, DH #2: 1-3 (RBI, R)
10-A. Koyie Hill, DH #3: 0-1 (K)
11. Matt Matulia, 3B:  0-2 (BB)

1. Rich Harden - 4.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K (63 pitches - 42 strikes, 0/5 GO/FO)
2. Vince Perkins - 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R (1 ER), 0 BB, 0 K (11 pitches - 7 strikes, 2/1 GO/FO) 
3. Jason Waddell - 2.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 GIDP (24 pitches - 14 strikes, 2/3 GO/FO) 
4. Rocky Roquet - 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R (2 ER), 2 BB, 1 K (28 pitches - 16 strikes, 1/1 GO/FO)
5. Matt Smith - 1.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 0 K, 1 GIDP (21 pitches - 11 strikes, 2/1 GO/FO)   

Koyie Hill 1-1 CS

Richie Robnett E-9 (bobble in RF allowed batter-runner to advance to 2nd base after bases-loaded RBI single in top of the 8th)


And now you know... the rest of the story...

AZ Phil....................................Good Day!


Great report, great news.

Me after hearing about Harden's outing today: Link (Apologies to whoever posted that originally. I think it was crunch)


I didn't know Chad posted videos of himself on YouTube. Way to go, buddy.

Az Phil -- thanks for the Paul Harvey flashback -- ...good day!

Still would like to see Harden's velocity a bit higher, but if he keeps it at this level and can stay healthy that'd be fine. If he can start commanding that changeup, he'd be devastating. Keep that heater in the low 90s at least and he's going to be tough to hit.

Az Phil, are there any exciting new faces from the DSL other than Valdez and Bautista? Thanks.Any sighting of the new bonus baby Joel Altagracia?

Az Phil or others, maybe you guys know. Late last year, Harden didn't have much velocity, low 90's at best, and threw almost all fastballs. He has a change, and no breaking ball as far as I know, but help me out here. Yet he still mowed them down. 99% of pitchers who throw low-90s fastballs only get rocked. What makes Harden's so special? It must move like crazy. And here is another Harden question: Given his history of arm problems, durability problems, lack of multiple pitches, yet undeniable nastiness....why hasn't anyone thought of him for the 'pen? Worked for another injury-prone power pitcher I know......... Starters have more value, but healthy releivers are better than injured starters any day

I offered the same thought about Harden in the pen a few weeks ago and was shouted down by a few people, who essentially stated that his immense talent is wasted there. Seems there's been a steady number of pitchers in the last few years who've been able to suspend their health issues after a switch like that, and also a few who haven't.

I suggested the same thing JB. Especially since it looked like we would be losing Kerry Wood this offseason. Would have eliminated the need to trade for Kevin Gregg. Also would have eliminated the need to trade Mark DeRosa or Sign Aaron Miles. Just Sayin

But it would have created a need to find a 4th starter. Just sayin.

And while it worked for Wood, who knows if Harden's arm would be better throwing more less often as a starter, or less more often as a reliever.

Harden is making, what, $7 million on his option this year? For another $3 million the Cubs could have brought back Wood, or at least offered him arbitration. Clearly, they don't value relief pitching enough to allocate that amount of money to one spot in the bullpen. Of course, if Harden can't stay healthy enough throughout the year to start, the Cubs may try him in the bullpen—better something than nothing. I believe it was also brought up how long Harden takes to warm up. Also, though you say he has no breaking ball, fan graphs said he through his slider 2.9% of the time last year and his splitter 4.2% of the time, which means he just rarely throws his breaking pitches. I would personally count his changeup as a sort of breaking ball, since it has some nasty movement and he gets Ks with it.

Did we not just have 6 guys in Camp battling for the #5 starter job?

Wait, now you're jumping forward in time? Pretty sure there were 4: Marshall, Heilman, Gaudin, Samardzija. Heilman was picked up a long time after we lost Wood and DeRosa, and the last two have been much worse than advertised this spring.

It takes about 10 hours for Harden to warm up.

If you have a Harden that lasts in the bullpen for more than four hours, call a doctor immediately.

...or call a hooker.

D.L Hugley approves!

well let's not make up stuff...

there are plenty of pitchers that throw low 90's and are quite effective, Harden threw most of Sept in the low 90's and still had a 2.65 ERA and sure wasn't bad in the playoff game, just not sub 2.00 ERA dominate.

He didn't use much of his breaking ball last year, but he does have one and it's at least average if not better. But he generally relies on a fastball/change-up combo that comes out of the same arm slot and is very difficult for hitters to pick up. He really doesn't need it until the third time through the lineup and he also has a good split-fingered pitch.


Last year it shows he thew over 60% fastballs, 29% change-ups, 2% sliders and 4% split-finger.

And he had a 2.07 ERA in 148 IP....1.77 as a Cub. The Cubs won 97 games last year...he started 12 of them.

there is no value in adding another arm to an already full pen for a guy like harden who's most likely not going to be a cub for the next 3-4+ years. use him while he's still "got it" and toss him. it's been done before and harden seems more than willing to give it. hell, i dunno if i'd want "ice pack harden" warming up 4-5+ times a week and pitching 3-4 times a week for 6 months, honestly...he's not the most limber/loose guy out there it seems.

what crunch said...

Thank you, Arizona Phil. Will you be able to tell us what the full season minor league rosters will be soon? Those are generally my favorite posts by you (along with all those lovely extended spring training reports). And, as an aside, I hope Harden gets his changeup working soon. It's imperative he has that change as his out pitch, especially if he's not going to be hitting high 90s like he used to.

SCOTT EYRE is just getting PUMMELLED by the Yankees right now. 2 mammoth HR 2 Doubles (one off the wall, one to the wall) and a Single. He's gotten nobody out at this point. Game on MLB TV

Plus, he's broke.

Apologies to TCR... People in the "other" TCR Fantasy Keeper league, please log in and check the messages. There is important information. Also, remember we're drafting Sunday, 9PM EDT, 8PM CDT

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